Saturday, 17 September 2011


When trying to decide how to best celebrate my birthday, I discovered that Alex James was going to be holding a festival on his farm in Oxfordshire which combined several of my favourite things all in one field, good food, music and cider. So with tickets to Harvest booked and a sprinkling of close friends I knew I had the recipe for an excellent birthday!

Charlotte and Julia also had a few surprises up their sleeves to make it an even more memorable birthday, starting with a delicious raspberry focaccia which we ate for breakfast at the tent before heading into the festival.

At Harvest there was an exciting array of yummy food stalls it was hard to decide what to eat first - and also easy to spend a small fortune.
We began with Meat Wagon burgers which were as delicious as always, the legend of the meat wagon has obviously not reached as far as Oxfordshire as there was no queue at all! Throughout the weekend we also ate fish and chips from the Sea Cow, which is another establishment local to us in London, hog roast with quince aioli from the Salt Yard tent, chorizo and haloumi wrap from Salad Days and Charlotte and Matt tried the fish dogs created by Mark Hix.
Other options included Mexican from Wahaca (which apparently David Cameron and his family had for lunch), the Mash Up gourmet pie company, Squid and Pear and a host of farmers market type stalls full of local produce. We'll have to go back next year to try all those!

There was a tent called the chefs table where you had to book in advance to secure a table which we hadn't done but we did sample some of the food by getting it to take away. All the dishes were made to recipes by the chefs appearing at the festival such as Ottelenghi, Emily Watkins and Stevie Parle. I had the excellent lamb meat balls with tomato sauce and polenta which were by Valentine Warner.

I have to say the music at the festival definitely played second fiddle to the food, this was no bad thing though, it just made for a very different festival experience. Usually we would be trying to find time to grab a burger in between bands, at Harvest however it was more a case of catching a few songs while deciding what to feast on next. There was always an eager crowd buzzing around the farmhouse kitchen stage, where as the bands sometimes had an active audience that you could count on one hand.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching all the cooking demonstrations, particularly when we managed to secure a seat on a hay bale close to the stage meaning we got to sample some of the dishes being produced.
On the Saturday we watched Nuno Mendes (Viajante), Stevie Parle (The Dock Kitchen) and Monty and Sarah Don. We then made sure we were in a prime position before Ottolenghi was due to take the stage. He cooked 3 dishes, a tomato based one with prawns, scallops and feta cheese which we managed to get a spoon full of, a salad featuring giant cous cous and a platter covered in a caramelized fennel dish.
Just as his set was coming to an end, the compare announced that it was the birthday of someone in the audience, they called me up on stage and everyone sang happy birthday while Ottolenghi presented me with an apple and olive oil cake which Julia had baked, smuggled into the festival complete with cake stand, iced and taken back stage!

The surprises didn't end there, on Sunday Charlotte and Julia tracked down Alex James by his cheese stall. They had carried a ceramic cheese dish to the festival which they filled with cheese on toast and got Alex James to give it to me!

On Sunday afternoon we watched Tom Kerridge (from The Hand and Flowers) cook cod with salt baked carrots and a fillet of sea bass with risotto which I think was the best recipe I got a taste of. Next on stage was the comedy duo of Mark Hix and Alex James who made loads of different dishes all containing cheese, they ran way over their allotted time slot much to the displeasure of Jay Rayner who was up next. The Sunday evening headliner was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who was promoting his new vegetarian cook book (recipes from which are likely to feature in future Keston Kitchen posts as it was one of my birthday presents).

We all had a brilliant weekend and I would definitely recommend the festival to any foodie fan. I am sure it will be bigger and better next year, if you are planning on heading to Harvest 2012 make sure you have full wallets and empty stomachs!

Rachael x

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Piedmonte Diet

by Charlotte

Who ate all the Piedmonte?

Sunday pranzo (lunch) a la Barbara

Bruschetta with tomatoes

Salami crostini

Salmon crostini

Tomato mozzarella focaccia


Cena (dinner)

Pasta al ragu

Pasta puttanesca (whore's pasta)

Birthday cake (record breaking-lightest sponge ever)

Merlot di Cascina Capriolo (courtesy of Alistair)

Pranzo - a kind of use up / get into Italian mode meal

Roasted red peppers

Insalata Caprese - home grown tomatoes (these crop up a lot) with mozzarella



Peaches & Birra

Cena - Anni's Courgette Pasta*

Grated courgette, capers, olives, lemon juice and zest, and mint. Served with linguine and Parmesan.

Torta di Ali Perry - a French style apple tart served with natural yoghurt.

Espresso & Dolcetto di Cascina Capriolo

*New recipe!

Tuesday colazione (breakfast)

Chocolate cereal

Coffee and blood orange juice


Linguine al ragu

Cena - Pizza night #1

10 pizzas cooked at 350C

Toppings: mozzarella; artichoke; capers; tomatoes; olives; egg; peppers; onion; spicy salami; Parmesan

Wednesday colazione

Scrambled eggs with Parma ham and toast

Coffee and blood orange juice

Pranzo - Bar Roma, Santo Stefano Belbo

Bresaola con rucola e grano padano

Insalata caprese

Prosciutto e melone

Tomino e pesto con zucchine e melanzane

Prosciutto e mozzarella

A bottle of Arneis



Veal Milanese with rosemary potatoes and grilled aubergine halves filled with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil

Aperol spritz & Prosecco

Thursday colazione

Chocolate rice



Gazpacho a la Julia - smoother than an otter

Seabass stuffed with capers, lemon, parsley and breadcrumbs

Insalata caprese

Grilled radicchio with balsamic vinegar


Cena - a birthday dinner (hence the size)

Ten course dinner in the hills. Creative descriptions by Ali Perry...

Piedmonte focaccini with prosciutto lardo (sausage rolls)

Veal tartare with pear and Parmesan (brains)

Turkey with a salsa di tonno (Turkey mayo)

Tortina di courgette served with a cheese stuffed courgette flower (Wet quiche)

Starters over, onto the pasta...

Ravioli with sage butter (herb sacks)

The mains:

Pigs cheek and rabbit with courgettes and aubergines (Two meat and veg)

The puddings:


Baked peach with a kind of brownie on top

Gelato - the minty kind

Budino do cioccolato - an alcoholic dense chocolate bar

Coffee e grappa followed by obligatory horizontal lying down

Friday colazione

Coffee - no room from previous night


Insalata #2 (tomatoes, lettuce, egg, tuna and sweetcorn)

Cena - Pizza night #2

Nb. Night of the special double egg top a la Lloyd

Saturday colazione

Plum cake



Penne e pesto with artichoke and pancetta

Cena - Pasta e Pasta, Alba

Antipasti to share - Bruschette con lardo - melt in the mouth

Agnolotti Piedmontese a la ragu di Fassone - an area we think...

Other recommendations-

Risotto ai frutti di mare

Filetto de manzo Castelmagno (rare steak with cheese sauce - to die for)

Sunday colazione

Plum cake

Plums (susine - new word)




Insalata - tomatoes and cucumbers


Cena - Pizza night #3

Nb. 80% flour and 20% semolina flour - great for moving the dough around

Aperol spritz & Vino rosso di Cascina Capriolo

Monday colazione

Coffee and tea

Cornflakes (very Italian)

Pranzo - Sapori di Langa, Santo Stefano Belbo

Set lunch menu

Grissini - great breadsticks that looked like wizards fingers

Two types of baked pasta - one with courgette / one with aubergine

Two types of pasta - spaghetti al ragu / penne arrabiata

Two meat courses - grilled chicken / roast pork

Red wine & Coffee


Focaccia col formaggio - so greasy but good

Grazie mille a Barbara e Alistair. Ciao tutti.